Ed. Bottega Errante
"What are you doing? Are you left to cling to a grave? What are you doing? Do you stay and then regret not having gone like the others? What are you doing? Do you want to live as a foreigner in a new country? Or do you want to live as a foreigner in a country that you now imagine you have the right to call your own? No, not yours. It is you who now belong to him. By right. They let you in. They let you pass. Go to Italy. Now or never".
In a few lines, the author describes, in one of what, in my opinion, is one of the most intense passages of her debut novel, the drama of the choice, between leaving or staying, of the Istrian refugees after the Titos took power.
Federica Marzi is from Trieste, she is a teacher and comes from a border family, partly Istrian and partly Slovenian. The two main characters of the novel also belong to border families: Amila, a girl of Bosnian origin and Norina, an elderly lady of Istrian origin. Both were born in a city that then changed its country of origin; both, therefore, were born "elsewhere". Both of them, because one needs the other, will intertwine their lives in Trieste. Both have had the experience of living in a refugee camp: Amila in Jesolo, Norina in Padriciano, clearly in different times and situations.
Amila's family found themselves refugees in the XNUMXs due to the war in the Balkans, while Norina's family was part of the great exodus from Yugoslavia to Italy in the XNUMXs. “She had been a happy girl, but then, after the war and the Germans, Yugoslavia arrived”. “Many houses were emptied […]. Anyone who wanted to go to their Italian homeland, to Trieste, had to line up at the town hall and abandon their possessions. Families broke up. Friendships crumbled like shortcrust pastry. The ties that had held a community together were severed. And even the oaths and promises that had sung love, love, love broke like so many dry branches." However, not everyone was able to bear life in the refugee camp, where everyone followed “with apprehension what the Italian Government did or did not do. The border was not far away. Norina and Nevia were also soon infected by the fear of being cut off again. An international dispute was enough and the line could advance towards them in a single night and pass them, pushing them back into Yugoslavia".
Nevia, Norina's sister, realized “that you could only drag yourself onto new ground”, he decided to start a new life in Australia, boarding the motor ship “Flaminia”; she would never return to Italy. To do so, however, would have been his nephew Simon who, with his arrival in Italy, would have brought about some upheaval, both in the life of Amila and in that of Norina who, through her nephew, will find herself having to deal with a past never forgotten. Amila will accompany Simon - on his journey in search of his origins - to Buje, Croatia, from where his family had fled. And there, he will have a meeting with Livio, who as a boy had courted his grandmother and who, having remained in his country, “he was not very convinced of the democracy that had followed Yugoslavia”. “But why didn't you leave too?”, he asked him. "And where? Livio asked. This is our home. On another earth we will no longer be the same, we thought that time." But Simon's real goal will be to find his grandfather Franco who, the day his grandmother embarked for Australia, was also on the same ship. But then he was back.